Hope for Native American Youth Growing Up in Poverty

Season 1 Episode 109
Aired on 07/08/2017 | CC
The Cheyenne River Reservation community in Eagle Butte, South Dakota is located in one of the nation’s five poorest counties. Like many small Native American communities, Eagle Butte experiences high rates of poverty, unemployment and death by suicide and alcohol-related causes.

One of the reservation’s youths, Xavier Norris, talks about what it’s like to grow up here. “It's very hard, especially when you're young,” he says. “There's not a lot of opportunities on the rez for kids to go out and do activities.”

That’s why Julie Garreau started the Cheyenne River Youth Project. The organization gives young people and their families opportunities for recreation that are healthy and positive, ranging from art and literacy to wellness and sports. Because of the Cheyenne River Youth Project, Xavier has been able to develop a love for basketball.

“For me, whenever I was sad or depressed, I always came to the gym and shot, and it made me better as a person, on and off the court,” Xavier says.

Along with finding purpose and direction, Xavier is also inspiring a younger generation of Native American youth. Watch as he discusses the big dreams he has for the future.

OWN's uplifting docuseries The Hero Effect brings to life the stories of ordinary individuals who are making extraordinary differences in their communities. It airs monthly, on Saturdays at 10 a.m. ET/PT.